Si dice che la pandemia abbia cambiato tutto.
Except for a chaotic December on Capitol Hill.
The same things happen every Christmas. People trim their tree. They bake cookies. And yes, they even sing carols – if, during a COVID Christmas, by Zoom.
But in December on Capitol Hill, there is always the possibility of a government shutdown or some other calamity that threatens to disrupt Christmas.
The government is slated to run out of operating funds at 11:59:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 11. Congressional leaders and appropriators are rushing to assemble a package that can pass both bodies of Congress – and earn the president’s signature. But they first must resolve a labyrinth of issues.
It will likely take a few more days to resolve everything. That presents the possibility of Congress slamming into the Dec. 11 Scadenza.
Naturalmente, this is cast against the backdrop of the pandemic, e, for health reasons, lawmakers not wanting to linger in Washington any longer than they have to. There was some mild hope that the sides would resolve things soon and have members cast their final votes in the next few days. But that expectation was never realistic. The reason? Everything ALWAYS takes until the last minute on Capitol Hill. Especially at Christmas. EVEN during a pandemic.
“We probably agree on 95 per cento,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “I would hope we will go home on the 9th. But I would think we won’t. I think we’ve all been there. Christmas is looming. I’d say we will be here a couple weeks anyway. The sooner, the better we do something.”
Coronavirus cases are spiking. And there is a very real concern about keeping the right mixture of members healthy and in Washington in order to, at the minimum, approve a bill to stave off a government shutdown.
House and Senate appropriators and top leaders in both chambers have toiled for several weeks on what’s called an “omnibus” spending measure. That’s where they cram all 12 spending bills for the fiscal year into one gigantic package and fund the government for the year in a single, fell swoop. Congress was supposed to wrap this up by Oct. 1, the start of the government’s fiscal year. But remember what I said about Christmas traditions at the Capitol.
Shelby and other Senate GOP sources are suggesting Congress may not wrap this up by the 11th. That would entail a stopgap bill to fund the government on an interim basis for a few days or weeks. It’s known as a “Continuing Resolution” or “CR.” It simply renews all of the old funding at current levels.
“I think it’s where we’re headed at the moment,” said Shelby when asked about the prospects of an interim bill.
This infuriates the top Democrat on the Appropriations panel, Suo. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
“If we have a short-term (conto), I think it just shows irresponsibility on our part,” fumed Leahy. “Democrats have been ready to go for months. We’re senators. Vote on something. Bring it up and vote on it. I don’t know what the hell everybody’s waiting for.”
A House Democratic source noted that there hadn’t been any discussion at all on that side of the Capitol about a stopgap bill. The source suggested that Republicans were trying to “inject drama into the process.”
Trust me. Capitol Hill has more drama at holidays than a Hallmark holiday special starring Candace Cameron-Bure. No one needs to “inject” drama into anything around the Capitol in December.
Here are some of the nettlesome issues on the appropriations front: There is a push by some House Republicans and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to enforce mandatory budget caps for $ 12.5 billion in health care benefits for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Congress can waive the caps if the spending is deemed an “emergency.” But the problem is that the sides would have to trim a lot of other measures if the VA money is subject to the caps. What’s interesting is that Senate Republicans and House Democrats are on the same page allowing the VA health money to bust the budget caps. House Republicans have been more resistant to bypassing the caps. tuttavia, that could be a negotiating ploy to try to force House Democrats to trim spending in other areas.
Other potential problems: the entire section of spending for the Department of Homeland Security.
This individual appropriations area has become a real hornet’s nest over the past few years. Money for the border wall resides in this area. That sparked the 2018-2019 government shutdown. Anche, there are issues over detention practices and migration.
inoltre, a new area of contention this year is police reform. Most police policy emanates at the local level. There was no congressional action over the summer after the George Floyd killing and weeks of demonstrations. tuttavia, there is jurisdiction over some federal law enforcement and certainly the U.S. Capitol Police. Fox is told some lawmakers are pushing for federal law enforcement to comply with reform pushed at the local level. That includes a demand for data determining whether USCP and other federal police engage in “racial profiling.”
There have also been last-ditch machinations to conjure an elusive coronavirus bill, just before the Congress ends. Ed ovviamente, right before Christmas.
This brings us to the high school “activity bus” approach to legislation with a coronavirus stimulus package.
Many of you played high school sports or participated in band or theater after school. There was always the activity bus which ran a few routes after school to get everyone home.
The activity bus made the initial run after the first wave of extra-curriculars. But if you missed that, there would always be a second run later. But if you missed that bus, you had one final shot. The third bus of the night. Altrimenti, you were stuck at school.
With a coronavirus bill, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are trying to catch the last run of the activity bus before the 116th Congress ends, the Trump administration expires and it’s Christmas.
The sides tried to forge an agreement over the summer before the COVID-19 surge. They missed that deadline.
Then there was an effort to put together something before the election. That came and went as well.
Adesso, they’re down to the final activity bus. It’s either catch the last activity bus of the night or everyone is stuck at school.
Il leader della maggioranza al Senato Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., didn’t outright dismiss the bipartisan approach, sticking to his push for a $ 550 piano di miliardi. The Kentucky Republican believes that’s the only measure that can score President Trump’s signature. But McConnell suggested that if there was to be a deal on coronavirus measures, it would “likely come in one package.” In other words, if there’s an agreement, the sides would likely Velcro it onto the spending measure.
Securing a coronavirus deal may take time. More time than they have before the Dec. 11 Scadenza. That’s why doing an interim spending bill now, and potentially – potentially – attaching a future coronavirus package to the broader, omnibus bill is a possibility. But everything is hyper fluid right now.
Christmas often imposes the toughest deadlines for Congress. But the pandemic created another one. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., would like to get everything wrapped up late next week so members can go home for the holidays and essentially quarantine. Poi, conceivably “re-quarantine” before returning to Washington to launch the new, 117th Congress on Jan. 3. Congress is trying to comply with local, Washington, D.C., health restrictions with lawmakers coming and going.
Every December creates a variable. A new hurdle for Congress to clear – with varying degrees of difficulty. And even though the pandemic altered a lot of things, it never changed one old chestnut: December is usually chaotic on Capitol Hill.